The Stawell Gift
is Australia's oldest and richest short distance running race. It is run over every Easter
weekend, with the main race finals on the holiday Monday, at Central Park, Stawell
in the Grampian Mountains
district of western Victoria
. The race is run on grass over 120 metres, with competitors handicapped
according to their form, administered by the Victorian Athletic League
, commonly referred to as the VAL.
The first Stawell Gift was in 1878
, as a fun race between miners at the end of the gold rush
. It has been raced every year since, except for four years during the Second World War
. Originally it was the townspeople putting together an entertainment package to happen over Easter, complete with 'special trains' to the event. Today it is the most prestigious footrace in Australia
, with a $40,000AUD first prize. The event is sponsored by Australia Post
and the finals are televised live around Australia.
On the Easter Saturday there are 24 heats, with the winner of each heat going through to the semi finals, and the fastest runners making it to the final.
The Gift is run on a grass track in front of the 100 year-old Stawell Grandstand, and the athletes run in lanes that are separated by lane ropes.
The idea of the handicap system is that all runners would theoretically cross the line at the same time. The handicapper works out what mark or handicap the runner will have according to their previous performances in the sprint, currently the most a runner may be handicapped is 10 metres, although this is occasionally increased to 11.
The handicapping system usually ends up pitting local runners against international professionals.
Gambling is allowed in the venue, and there is an extensive Bookmaker's compound.
Winners from scratch
Only two people have ever won the race running from scratch, Jean-Louis Ravelomanantsoa
and Joshua Ross
Only three sprinters have won the race more than once, Bill Howard (1966, 1967) Barry Foley (1970, 1972) and Joshua Ross (2003, 2005).
The following Gift winners also played senior VFL/AFL football:
- 1897: George Stuckey, Essendon; won in in 12.2 seconds, running off a handicap of 12 yards.
- 1899: Norman "Hackenschmidt" Clark, Carlton; won in 11.8 seconds, running off a handicap of 14 ½ yards.
- 1900: Dave Strickland, St Kilda, father of Shirley Strickland; won in 12 seconds, running off a handicap of 10 yards.
- 1924: Bill Twomey, Sr., Collingwood and Hawthorn, father of Bill Twomey, Pat Twomey, and Mick Twomey, and grandfather of David Twomey; won in 12.1 seconds, running off a handicap of 8 ½ yards.
- 1929: Clarrie Hearn, Essendon; won in 11 and fifteen sixteenths of a second, running off a handicap of 10 yards.
- 1936: Ron McCann, Collingwood; won in 12 and 4 sixths of a second, running off a handicap of 6½ yards.
- 1938: Jack Grant, Geelong and Fitzroy; won in 11 and eleven-sixteenths seconds, running off a handicap of 11 ½ yards.
- 1952: Lance Mann, Essendon; won in 11 and fourteen-sixteenths seconds, running off a handicap of 7 ¼ yards.
- Team-mate Norm McDonald, Essendon, running off a handicap of 5 yards, came second.
- 1971: Trevor McGregor, Fitzroy; won in 11.7 seconds, running off a handicap of 7 ¼ yards.
Recent winners of the Stawell Gift are:
Stawell Gift Olympians
Four Australian Olympians have won the Stawell Gift: